Howell Powell, who left Brecon for Virginia in 1642, was one of the first Welsh settlers in America. Most
emigration from Wales until the late 17th century had been on an individual basis, but after 1660 when
Charles II was restored to the English throne, he instigated a wave of religious intolerance which
threatened the rights of several groups to worship in the way that they chose, and significant numbers of
people - in some cases, whole communities - began to leave Wales. The Court of Great Sessions in Bala,
north Wales threatened to burn Quakers, prompting the Welsh Quakers to acquire land (approximately
40,000 acres) in and around what is now Pennsylvania. They emigrated there in 1682.
In 1683 Baptists from mid and west Wales made the journey to Philadelphia, where they settled and
acquired 30,000 acres of land on the banks of the Delaware River. Llanbrynmair, in Montgomery,
provided another wave of emigrants in 1795, and the first real Welsh colony, Cambria in western
Pennsylvania, in which the Welsh language, culture and religion was maintained in a community with a
distinct Welsh identity was established there by Morgan John Rhys, a Baptist minister from Glamorgan at
around the same time. In the 1850s more settlers left Llanbrynmair led by the Rev. Samuel Roberts (SR)
who acquired land for a Welsh colony in Tennessee.
But south Wales provided most of the emigrants to America in the 19th century. The growth of the iron
industry in the valleys from the mid 18th century and the later development of the south Wales coalfield,
meant that south Wales had a reserve of skilled metalworkers, foundrymen and miners who could find
work easily in the rapidly expanding industrial areas of America, like Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Even though migration from Wales to America in the period from the 17th to the 19th century sometimes
involved the movement of whole communities, when compared to migration from other countries, the
numbers do not seem so significant. Wales had a population of no more than 0.5 million before the 18th
century and a little over 1.5 million by 1881. In proportion to population, Irish emigrants to America in
the 19th century outnumbered the Welsh by twenty six to one.
The influence that many of the Welsh immigrants had on the emergence of modern America belies their
relatively small numbers - sixteen of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence were of Welsh
descent. Presidents such as Thomas Jefferson, (whose family came from a village beneath Snowdon),
James Monroe, Abraham Lincoln, and more recently Calvin Coolidge and Richard Nixon had their family
roots in Wales. Elihu Yale, the son of Welsh immigrant parents who settled in Boston, founded Yale
University in New Haven, Connecticut. When he died his body was brought home to rest in the churchyard
of Wrexham Parish Church near the family home of Plas-yn-Ial, Denbigh. A joint-founder of Brown
University, Rhode Island, Morgan Edwards, came from Pontypool in Gwent - he spent a year-and-a-half in
Britain and Ireland between 1766 and 1768 fundraising for the university. The first graduation ceremony
was held there in 1769. By way of contrast, Lampeter University, the first Higher Education institution in
Wales, was not even founded until 1822.
The Industrial Revolution may have provided Welsh workers with skills and talents which made them
valued as immigrants to north America, but it also had a disastrous impact on the Welsh language and
cultural life of the Welsh communities there. Once in America, immigrants were under immense pressure
to learn the English language and adopt the ways of the emerging American industrial culture. When they
had mastered the language, they would rapidly disperse into the country on the look out for new
opportunities. As the Welsh were a relatively small immigrant group, they tended not to meet other Welsh
people once they had dispersed, and so the language and the culture died out. (Of course, Welsh language
and culture was under pressure at home as well, especially in the south, with the influx of immigrant
workers from all over Britain and Ireland). By the second generation, immigrants were often fully
assimilated into the American way of life.
Michael D Jones, a Welsh non-conformist minister and ardent nationalist recognised this pattern amongst
immigrants to the United States and decided to do something about it. Initially, he organised societies to
help the Welsh retain their identity, but rapidly realised that the forces for assimilation were too strong
and proposed that only a unified Welsh colony could preserve the Welsh language and culture. The first
choice for the new colony was Vancouver Island, in Canada, but gradually an alternative destination
began to be considered which seemed to have everything the colonists might need - Patagonia, Argentina.
The first group of settlers, about 150 people gathered from all over Wales, sailed from Liverpool to
Patagonia aboard the tea-clipper, Mimosa, landing in New Bay (Port Madryn) on 28th July 1865.
Unfortunately, they found that Patagonia was not the friendly and inviting land they had been led to
believe it was (they had been told that it was much like lowland Wales). There was no water, very little food
and no available shelter. Allegedly, the settlers' first homes were shelters cut out of the soft rock of the
cliffs in the bay. They struggled to reach the proposed site for the colony in the River Chubut valley about
40 miles away, and eventually the first permanent settlement was established at Rawson at the end of 1865.
But their trials were not over: floods, bad harvests, arguments over the ownership of land and the lack of a
direct route to the ocean where they could export their goods and import necessities made life very
difficult. Many decided to move to other areas to try their luck and as a result the population at Rawson
decreased. One of the settlers went back to Wales and the United States and recruited new settlers for the
colony. As a result, the Electric Spark, a small vessel carried 33 new settlers from Pennsylvania in 1874
who joined a group of 49 settlers that had come from Wales. By the end of 1874 the settlement had a
population of 273.
In 1875 the Argentine government finally granted the Welsh settlers official title to the land, and this
encouraged people to join the colony. Over 500 people from Wales, mostly from the south Wales coalfield,
which was undergoing a severe depression at the time, made the journey to Chubut during 1875-1876. A
further 27 settlers arrived from New York. By 1876 the population numbered 690 - of these 135 were
second generation Welsh and 35 were non-Welsh settlers. The influx of willing hands meant that plans for
a major irrigation system in the Lower Chubut valley could finally go ahead. The new irrigation system
revolutionised agriculture in the area and contributed greatly to its rapid expansion and later success.
There were other substantial migrations during the periods 1880-1887 in response to an economic boom in
Argentina and the instigation of new government policies to encourage immigration. In the period
1904-1912 a considerable number joined the Welsh colony in response to continued economic depression
and industrial insecurity the south Wales coalfield. However, other nationalities were also beginning to
settle in Chubut in greater numbers and the colony's Welsh identity began to be eroded.
By 1915, fifty years after the original settlers landed at Port Madryn, the population of Chubut had grown
to 23,000 with about half of these being foreign immigrants. The Lower Chubut valley - so inhospitable
and barren when they landed 50 years previously - had been transformed by the Welsh settlers into one of
the most fertile, productive agricultural areas in Argentina, and they had expanded the territory into the
Andean foothills into the settlement known as Cwm Hyfryd. Of the 12,000 people living in the Lower
Chubut Valley only about 4,000 were Welsh: the success of the Welsh colony and government initiatives to
encourage economic growth in the area had attracted European immigrants from Spain and Italy as well as
a massive influx of Argentinean nationals and small numbers of Chileans.
During the next fifty years of the Welsh settlement, many of the institutions which had been established in
the early days of the colony, like the Co-operative Society, were split into factions by arguments. The unity
of the community - so important to Michael D Jones, whose dream it worked so hard to realise - began to
crumble. But, despite these problems the community still survives, and is currently the subject of a
co-ordinated attempt by the Argentine government and the National Assembly of Wales to promote and
maintain its distinctly Welsh heritage and identity.
Columbus, Ohio. Columbus had many very early settlers from both North and South Wales. The Welsh
established Welsh Congregational, Methodist, and Presbyterian congregations. Early Columbus had both
Eisteddfod and Gymanfa celebrations on a regular basis. However, as the Welsh became more
Americanized, much of this died out. A revival for the Gymanfa emerged in the Old Welsh Singing Society
in the 40's. This has grown into the Welsh Society of Central Ohio. This is a very strong organization, the
host of the 1998 National Gymanfa Ganu. It is the parent organization for this site. One interesting
anecdote about the strength of the Welsh in the 1800's is the formation of the Franklin County Library.
George Pugh approached Andrew Carnegie to seek funds for a library in Columbus. At first he was denied,
but Mr. Pugh plead with Andrew Carnegie (a Scotsman) in Welsh and Mr. Carnegie was so impressed that
he donated the funds.
Radnor, Ohio. Radnor is located in Delaware County, about 25 miles north of Columbus. It was settled in
1803, the same year that Ohio was admitted into the Union. In 1802, a young Welshman, David Pugh,
came from Skreen Farm in the Parish of Lllandeilo Graban, on the Wye River, just a few miles from Hay
on Wye. He sailed to Baltimore, where he met the minister of a Welsh Church, Samuel Jones. Dr. Jones
had been given 20 thousand acres of land in the Virginia Military Lands for his service in the American
Revolution. After learning English, David set out for the West. Traveling the old Zane Trace he turned
North along the Scioto River, from Franklinton (now Columbus), and arrived at Dr. Jones's land. He
surveyed it and laid out a town he named "New Delhi". He invited Henry Perry from North Wales with his
two sons to settle and develop the community. He then returned to Philadelphia where Dr. Jones gave him
2,000 acres in payment for surveying and setting up the sale of his lands. David then returned to Wales
where he arranged for his sisters and their husbands (John and Hannah Pugh Phillips, and David and
Mary Pugh Penry) to return to the Ohio. Upon arrival, Henry Perry decided to move on further west.
David Penry renamed the community Radnor in honor of his wife's old homeland. (David was from
Gwenddwr Parish in Breconshire.) In the next few years, friends and relatives arrived from Wales (about 25
families). David Pugh went back to Philadephia in 1809 and married a young Irish girl he had met earlier,
Jane Murphy. They returned to the Ohio in 1811, but did not return to Radnor. Instead they settled on
Blacklick Creek in Franklin County. They became one of the most prominent and wealthy families in
Columbus. His grandson George became Franklin County Auditor and Probate Court Judge, and in his
capacity as President of the Ohio Agricultural Society, secured the site for the Ohio State Fairgrounds. He
built roads and owned a series of tollgates and taverns along the old National Road (now U.S. 40). Back in
Radnor, immigration ceased because of the war of 1812 and reopened in 1818, after which most of the
immigrants came from North Wales. The town continued with an emphasis on farming, which it continues
today. It is a quiet little town, with 27 homes on the National Register thanks to the efforts of the Radnor
Heritage Society. A museum is opening this summer in the township hall and many old artifacts from the
Welsh community will be on display. Evidence of the Welsh heritage is evident in the Old Welsh
Congregational and Baptist Churches and the Welsh style graveyard on the hill in the center of town,
where many tombstones are in Welsh. Unfortunately the Welsh tongue is no longer heard.
Gomer, Ohio. This little town in Northwest, Ohio has retained its Welsh flavor, especially in the old homes
and the Church. Tours are given and and the town is reputed to have a great St. David's Day activity.
Jackson and Gallia Counties Ohio. "Little Cardiganshire" has retained its Welsh heritage, language,
customs, and is one of the best known Welsh Communities in the United States. Indeed it is said that if
you can't afford a trip to Wales, just visit Oak Hill. Museums, olld Welsh businesses, and culture abound.
The Madog Center for Welsh Studies is located at Rio Grande University. Many Welsh are prominent in
both the community and throughout the nation. The headquarters of Bob Evans Restaurants in located in
Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee. A group of miners left Oak Hill, Ohio in the late 1800's when the mines opened
around the towns of Soddy and Daisy, Tennessee. Although many of the residents still have the Welsh
names, little remains of Welsh Culture. There are of course, many artifacts of the mining industry, but it
appears that the settlers pretty much absorbed into the local culture.
Trinidad, Colorado. This information provided by Jim Joseph. Southern Colorado has a town called
Trinidad that is famous for being the home, for a time, of Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson. It also had a
small Welsh coal-mining population from Shawnee, Ohio who came West to seek their fortunes in the gold
mines west of Colorado Springs in the latter part of the 19th Century. Jim's father remembered Welsh
choirs singing sometimes on Saturday night in Shawnee.
Utah.It is estimated that 20 percent of the population of Utah are of Welsh descent. Many of them are
there because of the efforts of Captain Dan Jones, of the immigrant ship Brooklyn, who brought shipload
after shipload of settlers from Wales to America. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints had
great missionary success in Wales in the 1830's and 1840's and many thousands of Welshman immigrated
to America and moved West with Brigham Young in the great Mormon Migration beginning in 1847. The
world famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir began as a Welsh Choir in the Salt Lake Valley. Brigham Young
had heard the Welsh immigrants singing the old hymns around their wagons on the trek west and was so
impressed that he wanted them to sing at the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple. They did so, reforming
under the name "Mormon Tabernacle Choir." The LDS Church maintains the Gymanfa tradition. One of
the largest Gymanfa Ganu's ever held in North America was at Brigham Young University in 1995, where a
statue commemorating Captain Dan Jones was dedicated. Many dignitaries from Wales were in
attendance. The LDS church still maintains a strong presence in Wales today. Of course anyone involved
in genealogy is indebted to the efforts of the LDS Church whose Family History Centers around the world
are a great boon to all, since they are open to the public. The strong influence of the Welsh is evident in
the music of the Latter-Day Saints where Cwm Rhondda and many Welsh Hymns are sung on a regular
basis. There are a number of Welsh and Celtic Societies active in Utah and Other Intermountain States.
The town of Malad, Idaho was a Welsh Mormon Settlement and the High School is known as the "Malad
Dragons" and flies the Welsh Flag as school colors!
|If anyone in the U.S.A has any more
locations to add to this page by all
means let me know the details.